- The Washington Times - Friday, December 12, 2003

The question directed to Washington Capitals right wing Jaromir Jagr was simple and direct: Did he want to be traded?

“Do I look like I want to be traded?” he shot back instantly. “Do I act like I don’t like it [in Washington]?”

The answers in short are, no — he is comfortable in his third season as a Cap but might be a little more comfortable if the team was winning more. He is trying to improve that area, he said.

Jagr once again is the subject of rumors, this time as a result of an article in Sports Illustrated. Jagr has been the object of trade rumors at least on a weekly basis since last June as the Caps try to pare salaries as much as possible with the likelihood of a lengthy lockout replacing next season.

Most of the rumors have Jagr going to the New York Rangers for some combination including Eric Lindros, Tom Poti, Petr Nedved, Anson Carter, Jamie Lundmark or none of the above; or to Detroit, St. Louis, Dallas or Montreal.

“I don’t want to be traded,” he said yesterday after practice. “But I also understand this is a business and if the fans don’t come to the games and with the team losing money, it’s a lot easier to trade one guy than 20 guys.”

The reported rationale for trading the former five-time scoring champion is money and the belief that he hasn’t played up to some expectations. He makes $11million a season and has four years to go after this year plus a club option for a fifth. If the option is not picked up, he gets a $1million parting gift.

This season started as a personal nightmare: Jagr had three goals and five points in his first 13 games. But after a little man-to-man conversation with former coach Bruce Cassidy in Toronto in late October, he has become the Jagr of old. He has points (25) in 15 of his last 16 games, going pointless on Dec.4 in New Jersey. He is averaging 1.57 points a game over that span and 1.11 points for the season even with his poor start. He is involved in the play as opposed to being a bystander.

“Personally, I don’t like changes, I always say that,” Jagr said. “It takes me a long time to get used to something, then I’m comfortable, loose. It looks like everything is loose right now. You work hard, but you’re loose — you’re not scared to make a mistake. In practice, you’ve got to have fun, and if you have fun you get good energy and you work harder. And you don’t get tired. When you’re winning, you’re happy and the happiness gives you more energy to work.”

Jagr is comfortable here, he admits, and it is not hard to understand why. He was born in Kladno, Czechoslovakia, a piece of which is now the Czech Republic. He was born on a farm in a country under Communist rule. It doesn’t take a lot to make a person “comfortable” after those conditions.

“Of course I’m comfortable,” he said. “I’ve got my role, I know what I have to do. I feel right now this is my kind of game — speed, speed and speed skating through the neutral zone. That’s where I always play. This league is too good for you to be standing still. Now [under new coach Glen Hanlon] we’re practicing speed, but you have to get used to it. We’re practicing at high speed and when we get used to it, I think we’re going to be a great team.”

And he’ll be a part of it?

“Of course. I told you that,” he said.

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